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Taking your heart medicines
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

Taking your heart medicines

Know what your heart medicines are for and how to take them.

Key takeaways

  • People may need to take heart medicines to manage their blood pressure and cholesterol if they have a moderate or high risk of a heart attack or stroke following a Heart Health Check.
  • Most people who have had a heart attack, angina (chest pain) or been diagnosed with a heart condition will need to take medicines.
  • Taking heart medicines can reduce the risk of future heart problems, manage symptoms, and can help keep you out of hospital.
  • It is important to keep taking your heart medicines, even if you feel well. Check with your doctor or pharmacist before stopping or changing the dose of any of your heart medicines. 
3 min read

If you have had a heart attack or been diagnosed with a heart condition, it’s likely your doctor has prescribed medicines to protect your heart. You might also be prescribed medicines if you have a moderate or high risk of a heart attack or stroke, following a Heart Health Check with your doctor.

Find out about some of the key things to remember about taking your heart medicines. 

Common medicines for heart conditions

The type of medicines you take will depend on your heart condition. For some people, like people who have had a heart attack or been diagnosed with heart failure, it is normal to take more than one type of medicine. 

If you have been told by your doctor that you have a moderate or high risk of a heart attack or stroke, you might be prescribed medicines to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol. 

Find out if you’re at risk by booking a Heart Health Check with your doctor.   

Common types of heart medicines include:  

  • Medicines to manage blood pressure.  
  • Medicines to manage cholesterol.  
  • Medicines to stop blood clots forming (anticoagulants and antiplatelets).
  • Medicines to control heart rate and rhythm. 
  • Medicines to prevent and treat angina (chest pain).
  • Medicines to manage fluid levels.  
Depending on your heart condition and your general health, your doctor might prescribe other medicines as well.   

Read more, here

Taking your medicines - top tips

Always follow your doctor or pharmacist’s advice on taking your heart medicines. Remember these important top tips:  

  • Keep taking your medicines even if you feel well. Only stop or change the dose of your medicines if your doctor has told you to.
  • Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about possible side effects of your heart medicines. Understand what you should do if you get side effects.
  • Check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any over-the-counter medicines. Over-the-counter medicines are medicines you can buy from a pharmacy, supermarket or health food shop without a prescription. These include pain medicines, cold and flu medicines, supplements and vitamins. They can interact with heart medicines or can make your heart condition worse.
  • Check with your doctor or pharmacist if there are any foods or drinks you should avoid. Some foods and drinks can interact with heart medicines.
  • Make sure you always have enough supply of your medicines. Get your next prescription filled a few days before you are due to run out of your medicines.
  • Keep a list of your medicines with you; either written down or on your phone or computer. There are also medicine tracking apps available. We recommend the NPS MedicineWise app. Record the names of your medicines, the dose, what each one is for, and when to take them. Bring this list to all your health appointments.
  • Check the expiry date. Only take medicines that are within their expiry date. For medicines you don’t take every day (for example, you might only use them when you have symptoms), check the expiry date regularly.
  • Only take medicines that have been prescribed for you. Never share your medicines with anyone else.

Read more, here.  

The cost of your medicines  

Most medicines are available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and will be available from your local pharmacy. When a medicine is listed on the PBS, the out-of-pocket cost (or co-payment) will be reduced for everyone with a Medicare card. The cost can be reduced even further if you have a concession card (such as a Health Care Card or Pensioner Concession Card). You will need to show your card to your pharmacist.  

There is also the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme Safety Net, which can help reduce the cost of your medicines. Once you (or your family) spend a certain amount on PBS medicines in a calendar year (January to December), your medicines will be discounted for the rest of the year (or free for people with a concession card).  

To access the Safety Net, you will need to keep a record of how much you’ve spent on PBS medicines using a special form (prescription record form). This form is available from all pharmacies and on the PBS website. You can get a PBS Safety Net card from your pharmacist once the threshold is reached. For further information about the PBS and the Safety Net, ask your pharmacist.   

If you are having trouble paying for your medicines, it is important to speak to your doctor or pharmacist. They can help you find a solution.  

Read more, here.   

For more information about your heart medicines  

Your doctor or pharmacist can answer any questions you have about your heart medicines.

You might also be eligible for a Home Medicines Review. This is when your pharmacist checks the medicines you are taking. They can make sure you are receiving the right medicines and that you are taking them correctly. A Home Medicines Review might be especially helpful for a person who:  

  • Is taking more than 5 medicines a day.
  • Has recently been in hospital.
  • Is confused or worried about their medicines.  
  • Is having trouble remembering to take their medicines.  

For more information about getting a Home Medicines Review, speak to your doctor or pharmacist.  

Other reliable sources of information include:  

  • Consumer medicines information leaflet, which comes with most medicines. The leaflet explains what the medicine is for, how to take it, and if there are any side effects. If you didn’t receive this, ask your doctor or pharmacist, or visit the NPS MedicineWise website.
  • Call the NPS MedicineWise Medicines Line 1300 633 424.



Last reviewed: 09/09/2021

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